I was listening to a podcast the other day (I don’t remember which one, either Filmspotting or Title Pending) where they were talking about Bill Murray, and mentioned that they just don’t make comedian-driven vehicle pictures anymore. I remember thinking “That’s not true. What about Will Ferrell?” He still seems to be going strong with movies made just for him. Some have managed to become classics, like Anchorman, and some have been horrible, such as Talladega Nights. But most lie somewhere between in the spectrum of mediocrity. I would place The Campaign some where near the middle, edging closer towards the “good” side.
Sharing the spotlight with Zach Galafanakis has help this Ferrell vehicle a lot I believe, especially since Galafanakis manages to be equally funny with his character Marty Huggins, going up against Ferrell’s Cam Brady. What we get are two funny characters competing against each other and raising the comedic stakes throughout the picture.
The Campaign has the same plot-based troupes familiar in this sort of comedy. There is an outside influence who is threatening the status quo (in this case, the March Brothers Dan Ankroyd and John Lithgow) which leads to much miscommunication which complicates matters until things are resolved. Nothing new in that department, but who cares? What about the comedy?
There are certainly some laughable moments, including one with a baby where you laugh even though you feel like you shouldn’t. There’s also some good stupid lines, usually spouted by Ferrell’s inept congressman. But I do wish that they had focused more on the idea of Marty Huggins being a naive do-gooder and how his simple nature conflicts with Ferrell’s arrogance. But instead they were brought to the same level very quickly by having Huggins coached by a slick campaign manager. I just feel like we lost a wealth of comedy by going that route.
Still, there are some laughs which will sustain you until a better comedy comes along. After that though, this will likely be forgotten.